Monica Lennon - Conference 18
Monica Lennon - Conference 18

Speech from Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities

Monica Lennon MSP to Scottish Labour Conference

Dundee, Saturday 10 March 2018

Good afternoon conference.

I am pleased to formally move the SEC equalities and diversity subcommittee interim report on tackling discrimination and harassment.

It’s been a privilege to be involved with the work the SEC is taking forward to eradicate all forms of discrimination within the party.

For the first time in the Party’s history, we have established an Equalities and Diversity committee of the Scottish Executive. It is this group, guided by an independent advisory panel which will develop a truly comprehensive anti-discrimination and harassment framework to ensure it is the Labour Party that leads the way on tackling these issues, both inside our party and in wider society.

2017 was the year that women said times up on sexism and sexual harassment.

This reports set outs our plan for how we will tackle sexual harassment, racism and islamophobia, gender inequality and disability discrimination within the party by setting out new, robust procedures.

When he stood for our party’s leadership, Richard made commitments to address the under-representation of women at all levels in our party, including an unapologetic commitment to the use of all-women shortlists to address it. We can say we are feminists but the proof is in our actions. In Richard we have a socialist, feminist leader who has fought for equality his entire political life and who will not accept the status quo and it is testament to Richard that we have made so much progress ahead of this weekend’s conference.

Many women on the SEC and activists have contributed to our interim report and others who prefer to remain in the background. They all deserve our thanks. I am especially grateful to our fantastic Chair Linda Stewart, for her leadership, support and dedication to our party.

It’s not just those who seek political office or enjoy leadership positions within our party who deserve to be listened to and treated with dignity and respect.

Everyone in our party and everyone we come into contact with deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

As a political party rooted in equality, we have a proud history of breaking down barriers, fighting discrimination and shaping the laws of this country to promote equality and fairness.

From the day I joined the Scottish Labour Party I have taken on every task with great enthusiasm.

From leafleting to doorknocking, chairing my CLP, standing for council election and serving my hometown and now as a Member of the Scottish Parliament. I’m grateful to my MSP colleagues who have elected me to represent them on the Scottish Executive Committee for the past two years.

I love the Labour Party and it’s because I love the Labour Party that being involved in this work matters deeply to me.

Like others I’ve reflected on my own experiences and what others have shared with me about what campaigning is like, what our branch and CLP meetings are like.

We in the Labour Party understand that our society today doesn’t work for the many. Wealth and power rests with a privileged few.

And we have to understand that power imbalance affects how we work too and the experiences of all of our members and our staff.

The need for change has been recognised: this is the start of a culture change within our party – it may take time, but it will only happen if everyone takes responsibility for their own behaviours and to call out and report behaviours.

This report marks the start of a process for setting an intersectional approach to eradicating all forms of discrimination in our party:

Ensuring that everyone, women and men, black, Asian or minority, LGBTI, disabled, non-binary

All are respected, safe and treated with dignity. I’m proud to move this motion and ask all of you to play your part in this mission, to live up to our values as a party of fairness and equality.

In concluding, conference, after all of our campaigning on period poverty, I want to thank Brian Roy, Kerry Mosson and all the Scottish Labour staff and members who have been collecting donations of sanitary products for local foodbanks and women’s aid. We have been so busy looking after the needs of others that we forgot to make sure that our own workplaces are period friendly.

So I am pleased to announce that free sanitary products will now be available to all staff, members and visitors to our Scottish Labour Party offices. We can’t just talk about equality, we have to deliver it and I have every faith in you all that we will do just that.

Ends

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